Dreampunk profile: Tessa B. Dick
From an online interview on June 7, 2018
First off, tell us a little about yourself. How do you see yourself as a writer?
I began my writing career as a journalist. My first sale was an article about photography, and I went on to write for the student newspapers at college. At one point, I was writing press releases for Chapman College, producing a monthly newsletter for the college’s Cooperative Education program and working as assistant editor at Career Publishing.
I believe that my background in journalism helps me in writing fiction because I treat the characters and their environment as real people in real places doing real things.
That sense of realism makes it pack a punch when things get… weird. I consider your sci-fi a good example of dreampunk. Had you heard this term in use anywhere before I started the Facebook group? What does “dreampunk” mean to you personally?
I had no idea that there was a name for my style of writing when I wrote The Darkening of the Light. I considered it an experiment in surrealism. In fact, I have published a murder mystery and several memoirs, in addition to my science fiction. Fallen Angels has very little that you might call dreampunk, but it is a story of ancient humans meeting their cousins from another planet.
The Darkening of the Light, on the other hand, seems to fit well in the dreampunk universe. The two major characters, a husband and wife, are dreaming throughout the novel. They encounter figures from myth and legend, as well as religion. They even encounter a UFO piloted by alien slugs. Dreampunk appears to me as a metaphysical response to cyberpunk. Dreampunk does not fight against cyberpunk, but rather it enriches it with more human, emotional responses to technology.
Do you see any connection to the steampunk movement?
When I hear the term “steampunk,” I think of one of my favorite movies, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. To my mind, the genre goes back to the works of Jules Verne. In other words, steampunk arises from the very earliest science fiction, and not from any more recent development, such as cyberpunk. I think it more likely that cyberpunk arose from steampunk, even though the term “steampunk” has been coined very recently.
Now, I know you’ve taken some inspiration from your late husband Philip K. Dick, as have I. What other writers have influenced you to write such unconventional fiction?
My influences are not what you might expect. They begin with Beatrix Potter’s stories about Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, which I read voraciously when I was very young. I also read most of Walter Farley’s stories about the Black Stallion. My favorite book of all time is Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham; I also like The Cat in the Hat and The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.
The one book that led me to try writing science fiction was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I read one of Andre Norton’s juvenile novels, but I don’t even remember the title. Most of my reading consisted of nonfiction, including the All About series, as well as landmark and Viking books.
Oh, I love Madeleine L’Engle! Also pretty dreampunk, I’d say, especially how she uses “kithing” to connect minds and even affect past events. Very weird stuff. Can you think of any examples of books, movies, art, or music that really capture the feeling you want your fiction to have?
Heinlein’s The Door Into Summer, which is considered a minor work, is actually a marvelous read. I actually watch more British murder mysteries than anything else. I did enjoy Inception.
What was that movie where a woman kept having dreams turn into reality?
I’m thinking of The Lathe of Heaven, but that was a guy.
Oh, well, Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven strikes me as something along the lines of what I want to accomplish, but that is not the movie that is hanging on the tip of my brain.
Passion of Mind with Demi Moore?
Memento, I think. Checking IMDb… Nope, but that is also a good one. It would help if I could remember the actress’s name.
I have to include The Sixth Sense.
In the context of dreampunk, what would you say constitutes a “dream”? Would a mystic vision count? A psychedelic trip? A system of delusions a la Don Quixote? How about a computer simulation?
A dream is any event that happens more in your mind than in the shared world. For example, I might interpret an accidental shove as an attack on me. The event really happened, but my interpretation is all in my head.
Interesting. I like that definition. Have you ever pulled anything from your dreams to include in your fiction?
I often use my dreams to inspire my stories.
Ah, I think it was Sandra Bullock.
Premonition was going to make me nuts for a week.
Haha, whew. We got it. Well, I guess I’ll ask my final question: What is the best way to support you in your work? Which books should we buy, and where can we find them?
The best place to buy my books is Amazon, but if it’s priced at more than $20, that will be a book dealer reselling a book that’s signed, out of print, or both. My books are like children, meaning that it’s hard to choose a favorite, but dreampunk fans will like The Darkening of the Light more than any of my other books. They might also like my memoirs about my husband, Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright, and Conversations with Philip K. Dick.
The Darkening of the Light (2012) by Tessa B. Dick
An exploration of the possibility that we live more than one life, in more than one time and place. This surreal morality tale presents several alternate worlds in a kaleidoscope of fantasy.
Update: Tessa contributed to the dreampunk short story collections Mirrormaze (2020) and Somniscope (2023)!